Don Croftcheck (2013)

Allison native Don Croftcheck fashioned a nice high school and college football career, but he often wonders if his pro football career would have been more productive had he been used on defense instead of offense?


John “Wally” Schroyer  

Croftcheck was a star offensive lineman and linebacker at Redstone High School until he graduated in 1961.

"We had a good coach, Croftcheck opined. "That's the reason we were so competitive. Joe Bosnic was really a wonderful coach. He was very demanding and a very tough coach, but a very fair coach. What he did with us, he never allowed the word losing to be a part of our vocabulary.

“We never approached any game or any situation with the thought of losing. He instilled that in us and because of that and because of how demanding he was - we never had more than 17 or 18 guys on a squad.

"He put a lot of good kids out of Redstone and he gave a lot of us an opportunity to go to college."

Croftcheck also had high praise for the assistant coaches at Redstone - Vince Coppolino, John DePasquale and Don Franks.

During Croftcheck's senior year the Black Hawks were 7-1-1 and had tied Johnstown, 14-14 , which kept them out of the WPIAL playoffs. He also played on teams that posted records of 6-4 in 1958, and 7-3 in 1959.

"It was unfortunate and what was really interesting was that senior season we came one game shy of playing Joe Namath and Beaver Falls," Croftcheck lamented. "That would have been a great match up between Fred Mazurek and Namath and our teams. That would have been fun."

Croftcheck has fond memories of some of his teammates at Redstone.

"Fred Mazurek was a tremendous player - he was a great athlete," he recalled. "Curtis Brown could have played professional football - he was that good. He went out to a little school in Kansas and I think he set the school rushing record and then he quit and came back home. We had Roger Denarrio and Joe Grubish - we had a lot of good kids."

He also remembers the great rivalries in high school.

"We had a great rivalry with Charleroi and Brownsville was our biggest rival," he said. "German and Uniontown also were great games, but Brownsville was always the best game."

Croftcheck garnered all county honors during his playing days at Redstone and also was named first team All-State. He played for the West in a 34-14 victory over the East in an intrastate contest in the 1961 Big 33 Game.

When he graduated Croftcheck decided to go to the Big Ten and Indiana.

"In those days I could have gone anywhere I wanted," Croftcheck stated. "I didn't get an offer to Penn State, but all the Big Ten schools, Arizona State, Nebraska and Pitt and West Virginia came after me.

“The reason I chose Indiana, it was my senior year and Joe Bosnic was going to leave and he was going to go work on his doctorate and I think Joe wanted me to go to Indiana and they took care of his doctorate degree out there.

"He worked on his doctorate out there and that was part of the deal and I didn't care a whole lot at the time because I was just a little country boy and it was all new and exciting. I actually came close to going to Michigan State.

“The reason I went to Indiana was because my high school coach went there and Joe Grubish, my Redstone teammate went there as well."

Croftcheck played at Indiana from 1961 through 1964. The Hoosiers posted 3-6 marks his sophomore, junior seasons and went 2-7 his senior year. Croftcheck grabbed All Big Ten honors two years in a row and was named first team All-American by the Sporting News as a senior.

"We never had a winning season," Croftcheck offered. "We really never had good teams - our coach was Phil Dickens. We were in every game - we just didn't have enough firepower to finish them off. It was a great experience out there and I can't say I regret going.

“We had some really good players like Marv Woodson and Tom Nowatske was our fullback and Mel Branch was the other guard and he was a great guard. Bill Malinchak was there and Doug Crusan - so we had some people."

When Croftcheck graduated in 1964 from Indiana he had the opportunity to participate in the Blue-Gray game, the All-American game, the North-South game and the College All-Star game in Chicago against the Cleveland Browns.

"I was the left linebacker in the College All-Star game and Dick Butkus was in the middle and Marty Schottenheimer was on the right side and that was kind of neat," Croftcheck stated. "We had Roger Staubach as our quarterback and Gale Sayers at running back - that was a great team.

“It was fun playing with them and getting to meet them - those post season games were really a hoot, because of traveling around and it was fun."

The 1964 College All-Star game was played in front of 68,000 fans at Soldier Field and the college kids gave the Browns all they could handle before falling 24-16.

The Washington Redskins drafted Croftcheck in 1964.

"When I played high school football you got hit once or twice a year really hard," Croftcheck explained. "Then I went into the Big Ten and you got hit once or twice a game really, really hard. Then when I went into the pros you got hit every play the same way. There is no comparison.
“When I played in the College All-Star game we had an opportunity to scrimmage the Chicago Bears and I remember I was a linebacker - I slid down the line to left and this running back came up to the hole and he hit me and literally knocked me out. That's when I realized this wasn't high school and this wasn't college. It was a whole different ball game."

Croftcheck was in Washington for two seasons.

"I played both ways in college," Croftcheck said. "I'm 6-2 and 245 pounds. All the honors I got in college were defensive. The Redskins turn around and draft me as a guard - to this day I have never figured that out. I was three times the defensive player that I was an offensive player.

“When I got drafted as a guard I was dumbfounded. I was perfect for a middle linebacker and to this day I have never figured that out."

Despite the fact that he felt he was out of position Croftcheck was named to the All-Pro rookie team.

While in Washington he teamed up again with his former high school teammate Fred Mazurek.

"We were both there two years," Croftcheck recalled. "That was unique and different and I thought that was cool - we both came out of Redstone High School in Fayette County and we're both playing with the Washington Redskins.

“There is a case there to. Freddy is a great quarterback and what do they do - they played him at cornerback and almost killed him."

Croftcheck was traded to New Orleans who then sent him to the Chicago Bears.

"I was in New Orleans six weeks and then went up to Chicago. I was playing behind George Seals and I blew my knee out. I went back after rehabbing the knee and we were breaking camp and I was practicing and I was pulling to the left and the knee caved in and that finished me," Croftcheck stated.

Following his pro football career he came back to Fayette County and was a teacher for awhile and then he got into business. He owns Allison Custom Fabrication, a steel machine shop. His two sons run the business.

Croftcheck, 70, has been married for 47 years to the former Betty Bellan and they have three children Brian, Scott and daughter Suzanne.

He received another honor in 2003 when he was inducted into the Mid Mon Valley Sports Hall of Fame.


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